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As the body of research on issues related to access and diversity in higher education grows, it’s important to develop new polices and reevaluate existing ones to ensure they remain ethical and effective.

This page features the latest access- and diversity-related news and events to keep you up to date on the latest developments in the field.


Webinar: Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard: Understanding What the Court Said and What It Means for Higher Education

This webinar outlines issues relevant to the federal court’s September 30, 2019 decision in Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard. The court’s 130-page decision in favor of Harvard applies federal nondiscrimination law to Harvard’s consideration of race and ethnicity in its admissions program designed to advance its diversity-related interests. This webinar unpacks that decision, with a focus on key findings and lessons for other postsecondary institutions to consider as they develop and refine diversity-related policies and practices.

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Webinar: Understanding the Role of Race-Neutral Strategies in Advancing Higher Education Diversity Goals

The ADC hosted a webinar on race neutral strategies, including those featured in The Playbook (2d. Edition). Overall, the key themes discussed include expanding awareness of the range of effective strategies for increasing diversity that may be considered “race-neutral”, the need to consider both intent and effect when deciding if a strategy is actually race-conscious or neutral and the imperative of periodic review of policies that consider race in some aspect of the enrollment process for all IHEs.

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View Playbook

Webinar: Federal Non-Discrimination Law: Implications for Higher Education Financial Aid and Scholarship Policies and Programs

The ADC hosted a webinar on January 16, 2019. The webinar addressed the issues of federal non-discrimination law relevant to higher education financial aid and scholarship policies and programs. Also, the webinar discussed effective and sustainable financial aid program design, with attention to U.S. Department of Education Title VI policies and OCR case resolutions on the topic. In addition, the webinar provided insight into and offered ideas about strategies and action steps that can help achieve institutional goals, while also mitigating legal risk.

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ADC New Publications

  1. Harvard District Court Analysis
    This expanded decision analysis of the US District Court's September 30, 2019 decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard provides a detailed analysis of the court's decision on all key substantive issues. The document:
    • provides a brief summary of the decision.
    • provides a brief summary of the relevant legal precedent that informed the district court's ruling.
    • provides a detailed analysis of the court's decision on all key substantive issues. It includes a segment that distills and analyzes the approximate 40 pages of analysis regarding the competing statistical models and conclusions pressed by the parties.
    • offers major takeaways from the district court's decision, along with implications for action—issue-specific practical tips that correspond with court conclusions to highlight key areas of prospective institutional attention.
  2. Harvard District Court Summary
    This preliminary analysis of the U.S. District Court’s September 30, 2019 decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard provides a brief overview of the case and surfaces some major legal and policy implications of the decision for the higher education community.
  3. The Playbook: Understanding the Role of Race Neutral Strategies in Advancing Higher Education Diversity Goals, 2nd Edition.
    This practical guide provides an overview of race-and ethnicity-neutral strategies and “plays” that can advance institutional diversity interests.
  4. Financial Aid and Scholarships: A Federal Non-discrimination Law Primer.
    College Board and EducationCounsel recently published a primer that:
    • Surfaces key issues that should be considered in the review, evaluation, and evolution of financial aid and scholarship policies and practices to maximize their effectiveness and sustainability;
    • Synthesizes key points of law and policy in a format designed to facilitate meaningful on-the-ground dialogue and action; and
    • Offers ideas regarding strategies and design models that merit consideration among policy leaders as they seek to achieve institutional goals in legally sustainable ways.

ADC Member Spotlight

On November 7, the American Council on Education (ACE) published a report titled "Achieving Diversity at the Intersection of STEM Culture and Campus Climate", which discusses the role campus climate has in ensuring success of diversity efforts in STEM. The report also provides recommendations for institutions looking to address campus culture issues including: Develop holistic initiatives that center on the unique needs and challenges facing minority students.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, U.S. District Court for the North Carolina Middle District.

On January 18, 2019, the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) each filed motions for summary judgment asking the court to rule in their favor based on law and their written filings, rather than going to trial. In these filings, SFFA argued that UNC mechanically considers race as a dominant factor in admissions; acts in a manner that indicates a lack of sincere interest in the educational benefits of diversity; and fails to use race neutral alternatives that UNC admitted in its Fisher amicus brief are workable, rendering UNC's consideration of race unnecessary. UNC denies SFFA's claims and argues that it actively engages diversity to gain research-based educational benefits for students; has a rigorous, high-quality admission program in which readers are unaware of the racial composition of the class; and over a 10-year period, two committees and the Admissions Office considered many neutral alternatives and has been unable to find any neutral alternative that would provide the same diversity and academic quality as the current model. (See the January 2019 newsletter for more detail.) As in the Harvard case, SFFA and UNC present experts with conflicting findings.

On September 30, 2019, the federal district court issued an order denying summary judgment to both parties. In this order, three issues were discussed:

  1. the sufficiency of UNC's articulation of goals/objectives and definition of critical mass;
  2. whether race is a "plus" or "dominant" factor in admissions; and
  3. whether UNC pursued all workable race-neutral alternatives.

In discussion on the sufficiency of UNC's articulation of goals/objectives and definition of critical mass, the judge recognized UNC's compelling interest in diversity, but did not grant summary judgment on that issue. The judge concluded that each of the remaining issues presented questions of fact appropriate for trial. The trial of the case is scheduled for June 8, 2020.

College Score Card

On November 20, USED released an updated College Scorecard, which now includes information on median earnings and median debt of a school's graduates, including earnings in chosen fields of study. Previously, the Scorecard would only provide information about median earnings based on the institution, not disaggregated by field of study. The revised Scorecard does have some limitations, including a lack of information on most small programs; not including information on students without earnings; not including students without federal aid; and earnings data does not reflect multiple years of earnings. A press release is here. The College Scorecard is here.

Higher Education Act

On October 15, House Education and Labor Committee Democrats released their proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bill, H.R.4674, the "College Affordability Act," builds upon House Democrats' previous HEA proposal from the 115th Congress - H.R.6543, the "Aim Higher Act." This bill focuses on reinvesting in higher education by restoring state and federal investments, increasing quality through accountability measures, and expanding opportunities by investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) unveiled the proposal with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).